It’s generally assumed by fellow Sangoldkars that the Man and I are eccentric. We rise pre-dawn to water the plants, a job generally left to the Maker who cares for all creatures big, decease small and Goan, who has stretched the monsoons over four months and then provided heavy dew for another four, so farmers and plant lovers need to work for approximately a third of the year. Amen.
One neighbour politely wishes me good morning through chattering teeth, head covered by an acrylic-wool shawl, upper limbs enveloped in two layers of husband’s long-sleeved shirts, brand new canvas shoes firmly on socked (sic, but that’s how we talk hereabouts) feet. Her hands are folded, fingers tucked into elbow folds. “Bai,” she says by way of conversation. “Cold, no?”
I’m busy bending, stretching, untangling a kink out of that stiff plastic pipe. Yes, I tell her.
The poder comes along, ‘monkey-cap’ protecting his head from frost and chill. She feels sorry for him and reflects a second “Cold, no?” towards me.
I stupidly decide to educate her about the temperatures in the Himalayas, Kashmir, the North-East, even neighbouring Belgaum. Blank stare. I tell her about snow. She has her aha moment: she’s seen snow. Her cousin from Canada had come via New York once, bought her a transparent globe with a ‘Statue of Liberty’ inside it, floating in clear fluid. When the globe was shaken, a white substance floated to the statue’s head, and slowly floated to its feet. “Snow,” said my true-blue Goan friend. “I have it in my show-case.”
I tell her about the extreme conditions our soldiers live in, in Siachen. She tells me how her arthritis improves with a khare udak dip in the Baga waters in late February. “Our bhangrachey golden soil, the water, all have the most therapeutic effect on these things. The cold-cold waters of the sea at this time of the year make miracles, haan.”
I decide to educate her. I tell her that the ground is so cold that the soft snow hardens into ice. I know, her eyes tell me; her lips say: “Ice? In my freezer, lots of cubes, but they give us sore throats, so we don’t use them.” Then she added: “But you won’t fall sick, don’t worry, this early morning oxygen is good for health.” Her yoga teacher said so.
I recall a debate with another Goan about use of geysers in the bathrooms and wearing (artificial) leather jackets on motorcycles so that you don’t get the sniffles, sore throat, joint pain, headaches, fever, the runs, etc. That’s not all. Hot milk with sugar and haldi is consumed first thing in the morning, last thing at night. I guess the nausea it gives rise to makes you forget all discomfort due to 17 degrees Celsius.
Whichever part of the world you belong to: the cold northern hemisphere or the sunny southern one, happy 2014 everybody.